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Right Chemistry But Wrong Religion?
Dear Dating Coach,
I'm getting some mixed messages from a guy I work with. We hit it off right away, went to lunch together one day soon after we met and immediately started sharing things about ourselves that no one else at our job knows. Over time, our friendship has grown pretty close. One time we went out for drinks with another co-worker and all of us got a little tipsy and began discussing our marriage and family goals. After our co-worker went to the bathroom he and I kept talking and he told me he would really like to try having all that with me. I was surprised by this but didn't say anything. Later on that night we almost kissed but didn't because the other person was there.
A few weeks later I asked him to a movie we both wanted to see. I didn't intend for this to be a date just a friendly outing. He said yes but asked if I was approaching this as a date, stating that he wanted to know upfront in order to avoid any potential awkwardness. I told him no. Since then we have gone out a lot with co-workers and he has also asked me to come with him to help him pick out a present for someone. There's a lot of flirting, sexual tension and playful touching that goes on between us, and I feel a strong mutual chemistry. When we're in a group he talks to everyone but looks at me the entire time. He did ask me once if we needed to have a discussion about our friendship and I said no; I was only interested in him as a friend. However, I think I'm starting to feel more for him now.
I have been under the overall impression he wanted nothing but friendship from me but our relationship doesn't feel that way. He's Jewish and I'm not. He has told me that he wants a Jewish girl and I kind of wonder if that is the reason our relationship has not moved past a flirtatious friendship. I try to talk myself out of feeling anything romantic for him but his behavior confuses me so much. Am I losing my mind or are my instincts right? And if so what should I do about it? --Is it Me, Him, or Us?
I think your chemistry radar is working just fine. He confides in you, your interactions are playful and flirtatious- and he stated (after a few drinks) that he was interested in more than a friendship. However, when sober, he does give other messages. It appears that he is struggling with his feeling towards you and this is what you are picking up on. He likes and is attracted to you, but something is holding him back.
You have several options for dealing with this. The first one is to tell him you have reconsidered his offer to have a talk about "us"- then state your feelings and observations, as you have done in this email. Ask him in an open-ended way to share his feelings with you. Let him know through both your words and your body language that you want to hear what he has to say. If you are unsure about your readiness to hear him say "friends only," then this first option may not be the best one, at least for now. Another approach is to wait until a flirty and intimate exchange, and tell him how much you enjoy him and the closeness you share. Pay close attention to his non-verbal response as well as to what he says. If he is unclear, you can follow-up with another question to keep him focused on the topic, and again, pay attention to his response. You also have the option of doing nothing and pulling back during the flirty exchanges, and see what his response is. At that point he could be the one to suggest again that you have that us talk. You can play it safer by following his lead and responding to something he shares, or asking another question that will elicit more candid conversation from him. If the discussion becomes difficult, it is OK to back off a bit, and agree to pick it up again later.
Remember the importance of thinking through your own feelings beforehand- and assessing your ability to handle whatever he has to say. There is always a risk that any friendship could become awkward after a "friend crush" talk, so you need to be prepared for that as well by asking yourself if the risk is worth the potential gain.
(from June 2008)
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
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